Fallout 4 graced us with its apocalyptic presence just about this time last year and it’s been a crazy ride since. And to end things on a high note, Bethesda made sure that its final installment of downloadable content would be the craziest ride yet, quite literally.
Leaving the remnants of the Boston Commonwealth behind, the Sole Survivor travels to Nuka World, a theme park centralized around the highly popular soft drink, Nuka-Cola. If you’re reading this but don’t know the Fallout series very well, imagine Hersheypark and then envision it two hundred and ten years after a nuclear war that devastated the planet. A pretty picture, no?
While Fallout 4’s concluding batch of content was a content-packed sendoff for a fantastic game, I did have my gripes. To paint the proper picture, let’s talk about the 9 things that Nuka-World got right and the 6 things that it didn’t.
15 LOVED - It's The Most Interesting World Space In The Entire Game
Bethesda has never been bashful about taking Fallout’s universe to the brink when it comes to DLC. What immediately comes to mind is Fallout 3’s alien abduction in Mothership Zeta or our trip to Big Mountain’s Science facility in Fallout: New Vegas. You remember the one, it had the brains in the jars hooked up to monitors talking to you like everything was fine. All good, no? By setting out on these outlandish adventures, the creative teams are not only allowed to tell interesting stories but they get to do so from a diverse and unique setting.
Nuka-World is no exception setting-wise. As the Sole Survivor, we get to explore one giant theme park divided into six very distinct districts. The futuristic Galactic Zone takes us into the future that never came to fruition while the Safari Adventure zone gives us a taste of what the nuclear radiation has done to the more exotic animals of the world. While it’s almost a guarantee that Fallout games are going to continue to take us to uncommon places in years to come, we’ll never see a place like Nuka-World again.
14 HATED - Wonky Design Makes For A Somewhat Detached Experience
So we get to travel to the crumbling remains of a theme park - one that’s been taken over by raider clans to become a sort of blood-drenched outlaw hub. Great, I love it. But I have a hard time understanding why this hub is structured in such a chaotic mess, both from a pre-war park design, as well as what the raiders then build around after. The layout of the park is as strung out as the park designer must have been when he put pencil to paper. In regards to walking through a theme park, there should be a smooth transition as you move between the themed districts. This would help retain the sense of wonderment at where you are and what you’re experiencing. In Nuka-World, you have to enter into this foggy, isolated no-man’s land to move between the zones. It breaks the excitement of exploring the ruins of a once-wonderful place.
Since moving into the place, the raiders haven’t done much to sooth the feeling of unease as you travel through the park. From the very get-go, you’re forced through a gauntlet in this kind of “meat-for-the-machine” rite of passage. Now, I understand that a gauntlet isn’t supposed to be a bee-line to victory, but this maze is incredibly frustrating from a player perspective. Bethesda is one of my favorite game studios but I don’t think I'm alone in saying that their styles of design for areas of otherwise great interest have always been a thorn in their fan’s sides (looking at you, Fallout 3 subway network). The gauntlet in Nuka-World as well as areas like the interior of the Nuka-Cola bottling plant and the Galaxy Zone’s Nuka-Galaxy are bitter testaments to this flaw.
13 LOVED - The Park Is A Library Of Lore
As fans of the Fallout series can attest, every audio log you listen to or terminal you dust off and bring back to life is a new opportunity to learn more about the days leading up to the Great War and the centuries that followed. Sometimes, if you step lightly and say the right things, you come face-to-face with a relic from the civilized days before the bombs fell. I won’t reveal everything, as finding these lost chapters are sometimes the most fun part of the Fallout series, but just know that Nuka-World offers a lot of light to be shed onto things unknown. As with all of the Fallout games, Vault-Tec has its dirty paws in various places they don’t belong, including a walk-through attraction found in the Galactic Zone that gives a proof of concept for their nefarious future ventures. It’s rich in backstory and will make anyone familiar with the antics of Vault-Tec nod their head and think "that seems about right."
It wouldn’t be Nuka-World without its namesake taking center stage. From the second you arrive, you’re paraded through what was essentially a Nuka-Cola commercial brought to life. From battered mascots to weathered merchandise, you come to understand that the Nuka-Cola phenomenon was taking the nation by storm before the Great War. You come to learn Nuka-Cola’s origins, its secrets, and the people who brought it into existence.
12 HATED - The Past Is More Entertaining Than The Present
As rich as the park was in backstory and pre-war world-building, it tipped the scales away from what was going on in the present. The concept of bickering raider factions that are kicking the dirt around their disintegrating peace treaty seems like an interesting one but there’s not much of a story past the initial concept. Three gangs and they’re all at each other’s neck. Okay, so why? Well, because they’re raiders and that’s what raiders do. Well they all came together at one point. What was their uniting factor? Uh, it was this guy that just said they should. Are there motivations behind these groups and do they evolve as the story does? No, none of that.
The narrative is barely more than an initial pitch that’s stretched as wide as it can go. As the Sole Survivor, I have nothing to base my allegiances off of besides gang aesthetic. In the core game, when it came to choosing sides, we’re given a wide variety of motivations. Choosing where to stick my flag is a choice made as the story unraveled and not done without some thought put into it. In Nuka-World, I pick my friends based purely off of flash and street appeal.
11 LOVED - It’s Fun To Be The Boss
Regardless of the shallow facades of the pieces in play, it’s still fun to move them around as you please. As you stumble out of the gauntlet, fists bloodied from defeating the Overboss of Nuka-world, you’re handed the reins. In a serendipitous turn of events, the Sole Survivor goes from being the latest, insignificant plaything to calling the shots of the entire park. In a micro version of a city-management game, you decide which gang gets what slice of the pie. Should the newly liberated Kiddie Kingdom go to the blood-lusting Disciples, the cold and collected Operators, or the primal Pack? It’s all up to you. When there’s nothing left to divvy up, you look upon your realm, those who’ve been looked upon generously standing by your side while others snarl in your shadow. It’s a good feeling and a new take on decision making in Fallout games.
As you assign these gangs to their territories, you can receive tribute from them and bask in their good favor. From atop Fizztop Mountain, your reign trickles down through your loyalists in the street. You truly feel like you’re building something, a feeling that goes unfelt sometimes in the core game. But sadly, and unlike Rome, your city can be built in a day.
10 HATED - Why Can’t The Boss Give Anything A New Coat Of Paint?
Fallout 4 was the first in the series to implement settlement building (it was a mod in Fallout 3 and NV before that). This awesome feature would allow you to clear out an old neighborhood or city block and reinvigorate it with purpose. Build a wall, crank on the lights, and turn on the radio broadcast because the Commonwealth has a new place for the weary to lay their head. It was a fantastic addition to the gameplay and gave utility to many things in Fallout that was otherwise fluff. So tell me why, in the one place where I’m making weighted decisions about where established groups get to live, can I not bolster their defences and give them a bed?
The zones of Nuka-World are still left war-torn and messy after I plant the flag of my chosen people and more urgently, left completely vulnerable to the dangers of the wastes. I’ve invested my time to clear these places, I should get to secure them and decorate them as well.
9 LOVED - Taking The Raider Scourge To The Homeland Feels Oh So Bad In The Best Way
With Nuka-World completely under your claim and the taste of blood still fresh on your tongue, you can take your loyal crews back to the Commonwealth and begin spreading your territory. It works almost exactly like previous settlements but this time you’ll be kicking people out and taking defensible areas for yourself.
For the characters of high moral fiber, you can choose to remove settlers without violence, which is a plus for those trying to stay true to their role play. The claiming of settlements and the loot that comes with is how the DLC lives on past Nuka-World’s borders, though only by adopting some of the settlement features that were already in play from the core game.
8 HATED - By Taking The Raiders To The Commonwealth, You’re Gonna Burn Some Bridges
Preston Garvey is a high-ranking Minuteman and the first companion you receive after rising from the Vault 111. He teaches the player the ropes and hopefully instills a sense of civic pride as you reclaim areas of the waste for the good of the people. A paragon such as Preston will obviously have problems with the idea of raiders leaving their rat hole with ideas of expansion. As soon as you claim your first settlement in the name of your raider clan - even if done in a non-violent way - Preston becomes an enemy. Some of us may have been travelling with Preston since last November. You’re telling me that after all that time on the road together, my decision to bring order to a group of psychopaths and give them a goal can destroy our brotherly bond? It doesn’t seem right.
Fallout has always been about making grey choices, not just white and black ones. There should be a way to compromise with the raiders and the Minutemen so that they fight for a joint cause, just like how the raider amalgamation first came to be. It seems like a lazy, quick way to give the choices another path that they must take, instead of letting the player weave their way through moral rights and wrongs like the game usually allows.
7 LOVED - A Very Cool Side Quest Outside Of Nuka-World
Do you consider yourself happy? Truly, are you happy? If the answer is no (which it most likely is), allow me to introduce you to Hubology. Hubology allows you to unlock your mind and free yourself of neurodynes, the mental ghosts that block your brain from seeing what you’re really meant to see. Would you like to be enlightened? Then come with me…
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I can’t say that it’s comforting to know fringe religious groups will not only survive, but thrive in the post-apocalyptic wastes. But alas, the Massachusetts division of Hubology is just outside the gates of Nuka-World and they’re actively looking for new members to help rocket their cause to the stars.
Seriously, they want to go to space.
This fun side mission that has no effect on the main story of Nuka-World will allow you to enjoy the lighter side of the apocalypse as you walk with those blessed with enlightenment. In their first appearance since Fallout 2, the Hubologists will require space suits and some muscle to help them reach their goal. Follow with them on the path and maybe you’ll unlock something in yourself you never thought possible.
6 HATED - Everything Else Outside Of Nuka-World Is Bland
While the Hubologists give us a humorous and character-driven quest line outside of the walls of the theme park, that’s just about all you’ll find out there (with one exception that I’ll address in a few points). As you meander around the perimeter of the park, you really get a sense of how little time was devoted to the surrounding environment - and I don’t just mean points of interest. While there are a few locations that may reward you with some magazine or some spare caps, the 15 minutes you‘ll spend wandering around outside really get yawn-inducing. Regardless of the boundary area, it’s the exterior of the park that really disappoints. As you look at the barren walls and the parking lots full of rusted shells it’ll be the first time you utter “wasteland” while playing a Fallout game and not be excited by it.
From the outside looking in, Nuka-World seems hollow and uninviting. You realize that, if it weren’t for the monorail that dropped you off in the Gauntlet, you probably wouldn’t have approached the place. But, in the end, I guess the same can be said about other amusement parks. They’re enchanting and grand, but if you pop through a door you shouldn’t enter, you might see the grey, humming boxes that keep the place afloat.
5 LOVED - A Nostalgic Cameo
While I’ve made note of how some of the interactions with the gang’s leaders fall short, there were three interactions that stuck out and ultimately became the three things I’ll remember about Nuka-World the most. The first is an old acquaintance.
It is Sierra Petrovita, a familiar name to some of you who’ve ventured into Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland. A collector, historian, and admitted addict of Nuka-Cola, Sierra has made it her life’s work to uncover all there is to know about the sweet soft drink. Ten years after meeting her the first time, she’s reappeared in of all places, the Mecca of Nuka-Cola. She’s a part of a fun quest and a blast from the past, but most importantly she’s a fan service. For Sierra to be at Nuka-World just makes sense and we’re glad she was there to become only the 8th character to appear in more than one Fallout game.
4 LOVED - A New Companion
The second noteworthy soul to come from within the walls of Nuka-World is Porter Gage, the last companion the Sole Survivor will meet. He was the right-hand man to the old boss of Nuka-World and becomes the new right-hand man of the Sole Survivor when he takes power.
He teaches him what it takes to lead the three gangs as well as what to expect from each of their power-hungry leaders. He’s collected and pragmatic in the way he doles out savagery, a companion meant to feed the inner demon. He’ll have your back around the dangerous areas of the park and continue on with you back to the Commonwealth if you’ll have him. He’s a solid, personality-rich companion and a welcome addition to the Fallout Universe.
3 LOVED - An Honorable Commemoration
The last of my memorable interactions is found just south of the park entrance (I said there was something still left to be said, didn’t I?). Just past the cracked pavement of the abandoned parking garages is a humble home with a man by the name of Evan. He sits atop his roof to admire the view, managing to find beauty in the wretched remains of a broken world. A kind spirit who is willing to aid the Lone Survivor however he can, one has to wonder what his story may be.
Incredibly, Evan’s origin doesn’t trace back through the wasteland, but back to reality. He’s a moving memorial to a young man by the same name who died earlier this year. After Evan’s brother posted on Reddit explaining how Fallout 4 had helped him cope with the loss of his father - and now his brother as well, Bethesda reached out to him directly to let him know that Evan would live on within Fallout’s newest expansion. Give Evan a visit if you’re low on building supplies or low on life, he’ll help with both.
2 LOVED - It's A Modder’s Treasure Trove
As with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the last release of official core content doesn’t mean the end of anything. With Bethesda’s willingness to provide the tools for creators to build upon their game, mods of every kind have quickly filled the web. Whether they be tweaks or completely new content, passionate fans everywhere are chipping away at their contribution to the Fallout universe.
For the more creative mods, one that may add a myriad of new monsters for example, it’s nice to have something from the original assets to work from. Think of an animal moulded in Play-Doh and someone comes along and begins to morph that basic animal shape into another beast entirely. From that base model, they were provided a starting off point that made creating something new even easier. This is what Bethesda’s original assets do for modders. Whether they be guns, creatures, or objects, the amount of new assets found in Nuka-World are going to give the modders a whole new toy box to tinker with. It won't be long until we see what awesome creations come from it.
1 HATED - Nuka-World Falls Short In Comparison To Past DLC
Bethesda has always set the standard for downloadable content very high, especially in the Fallout series. Looking back to Fallout 3, Bethesda released five individual new chunks of content, each one adding huge worldspaces just yearning to be explored. While there’s been 6 expansions in Fallout 4, Nuka-World is only one of three to add another large area to explore, and Automatron just barely makes that list. That alone shouldn’t count against Nuka-World and how it stands up to past DLCs, but the simple fact is that it won’t stick around in my head the way that Point Lookout or Old World Blues ever did.
From the stories being told to the people I meet, Nuka-World is just middle of the pack. Maybe I’m getting bitter in my old age, but there just wasn’t enough here to keep me wanting for more. There were times I was excited and times where I thought I was building something but, ultimately, Fallout 4’s final DLC left me reminiscing on past DLCs instead of focusing on the one I was playing.
Tallied up, these are 9 points that I felt were commendable and 6 points that were letdowns. Ultimately, Nuka-World was a successful entry and a respectable sendoff to the latest instalment to a beloved series. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Bethesda and the DLCs that follow.